Directed by James Gunn
Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker
Back in the 80’s there was a subgenre of film called the horror/comedy. That genre has been dead for many years, or changed to the horror/spoof. Since the days of Scream a horror film couldn’t be funny unless it was either spoofing itself or other horror films. The Scary Movie franchise personifies this situation. Spoofs make perfect since because they are so easy to write. You don’t have to write truly original comedy, you just have to make fun of stereotypes or the utter ridiculousness in other films.
Well back in the 80’s there used to be films that were horror, and they were funny, but they weren’t spoofing anything. In fact more often the characters were played serious, they were just written funny. This type of comedy horror can be tougher to write, or at least it seems like that’s the case. Back in the day there were those low budget horror flicks such as Ghoulies and Critters that weren’t really great films in the horror genre but they were damn funny and usually pretty gross. Other films such as Creepshow, Gremlins, Tremors, Evil Dead and Army of Darkness were even better, not only being hilarious and gross but even being a little innovative technically.
The horror/comedy finally found its way back to the forefront with Shaun of the Dead, but at the same time this film still spoofed the zombie film genre just a bit. It wasn’t nearly as overt as Scary Movie and others of that type, but it still mixed spoof with homage. Now we get Slither, from one of the writers of the Dawn of the Dead remake. This film is the first true throwback to the old days of horror/comedy. In this film the characters are played straight, and there aren’t any, “gags” or “riffs” on older films here. Slither is most obviously influenced by those films nad it plays in fairly familiar territory, but it doesn’t spoof anything it just does its own thing within the genre. There are a few instances of homage here and there, a shot similar to those so popular in Evil Dead, and several minor references to The Toxic Avenger. The homage though aren’t spoofs, and in fact are so subtle that if you aren’t a stickler for detail and a student of those films you probably won’t even notice.
A meteor crashes in a small redneck town led by Sheriff Pardy (Nathan Fillion. No one notices until pets start getting killed, then livestock, and a young woman disappears. The sheriff puts together a team to investigate and they find that one of the town’s richest members, (Michael Rooker) has changed into something evil, something hell bent on literally absorbing the entire planet, starting with this little town. The film features all sorts of gore crusted zombies, slugs or giant worms, and two other “things” that you have to see to believe!
The horror base of this film is played serious. The monsters don’t do anything funny in the film. The humor comes from the interactions of the main characters with each other in response to the threat or their interactions directly with the monsters. I actually prefer this set up because if you plan to make monsters even a little scary in a film you can’t make them be funny. I love Gremlins but I never found anything scary about them, even when they were supposed to be, because they did to many funny things. The dialogue in the film is pure camp and completely classic. Nathan Fillion doesn’t surprise me here that he is so damn funny. He was excellent in Firefly and Serenity and given the right lines and character I knew he’d be great in this film, and he is. The surprise for me is Elizabeth Banks. I’ve never really paid much attention to her in the past but here she’s funny and classy at the same time, oh and her southern accent is dead on without being to Gone With the Wind. In fact most of the accents in the film are pretty well done. Gregg Henry plays the town’s grumpy Mayor and nearly every line that he delivers is hilarious. Michael Rooker probably has the toughest part in the film playing someone who has been taken over by an alien and is now sharing his mind with said alien. He has to play intimidating and tender all at the same time and he does a masterful job, even under pounds of makeup. Rooker does get some funny lines though. His “it’s just a bee sting” still makes me smile.
Speaking of the special effects: they are appropriately low budget at times and always gooey and disgusting in that classic sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers/The Blob sort of way. Do they go over the top? Absolutely. Is it gross? Yep. But is it hilarious? Damn right. At the end of the film you may be grossed out but you’ll also still be laughing through the closing credits at what you’ve just seen and at the soundtrack playing over the credits. Also, this is a throwback to the 80’s so stick around until the end of the credits.
I don’t think I can heap anymore praise on this film. It’s classic horror/comedy and it’s executed damn near perfect. I love the truly disturbing downer horror flicks that we’ve had this year such as Hostel and The Hills Have Eyes but I appreciate having a well done horror/comedy to play in contrast with those. I hope the trend of great horror in all of these subgenres can continue.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and overall looks quite nice. The msotly natural colors are well preserved especially skin tones. The biggest issue is when scenes get a little too dark everything gets just a little grainy and detail drops a bit. It’s not bad, it jsut feels a little low budget, like the movie itself. Overall the transfer is solid though.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clean throughout with dialogue, score, adn effects well mixed and distortion free. Again, the presentation isn’t awe inspiring but it’s solid and easy on the ears.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc is packaged in a standard amaray case with appropriately 80’s looking artwork representing the film.
There’s a surprisingly large selection of extras for a single disc release. First up is a feature running audio commentary with director James Gunn and star Nathan Fillion. Right away you’ll have to get used to the fact that Fillion is literally phoning the commentary in. Considering the fact that he’s on the phone his commentary is fairly clean. This is a very conversational commentary with great behind the scenes stories and good chemistry betwen the two.
“The Sick Minds and Slimy days of Slither” is a brief but entertaining featurette shot during the film’s production. There are several interviews and some behind the scenes footage. It’s not highly informative but like I said it is entertaining. “Slithery Set Tour With Nathan Fillion” is an even briefer set tour with the film’s star. “Visual Effects Step by Step” is an interesting featurette where we see rough versions of scenes progressively have digital effects added until the scenes look as they did in the final film. “Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life” is a longer featurette covering the creature effects of the film with behind the scenes footage and interviews with the effects team. “Gorehound Grill: Brewin’ the Blood” is a newbie horror filmmaker’s dream showing the step by step of how the blood was made for the film. “The King of Cult: Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary” is a brief behind the scenes tour and rehearsal with the man behind Troma Films who has a brief appearance in the film and one line that was actually cut. As always Kaufman is amusing and spastic. “Who is Bill Pardy” is just behind the scenes footage of Nathan Fillion goofing around. Finally there’s a gag reel and a series of deleted and extended scenes all with optional comemntary by director James Gunn.
This is a surprising amount of bonus material considering that the film was a bomb at the box office (What a crime!).
Slither was a must see in theaters and it still is on dVD. Fans of campy horror and gore shouldn’t hesitate.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10